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PostPosted: 26 Jan 2010, 21:51 
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holy crap ninja review out of nowhere[SIZE=2]

anyway

[/SIZE] Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
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Developer: Atlus
Producer: Atlus USA

Graphics: 5
Gameplay: 9
Storyline: 10
Audio/Sound: 7
Suspense: 8
Overall: 8.5 (not an average)

Rated T; available for Nintendo DS

I’ve been getting into the Shin Megami Tensei games quite a bit of late, and I’m beginning to understand why they’re regarded as Atlus’s flagship series. Interestingly, though, Devil Survivor is quite different from most of the other entries (though if you’re a core SMT fan, worry not – another one entitled Strange Journey will be out soon).

Once again, the plot is a very strong point of this game. The opening sequence treats you to some cryptic warnings, a few scenes of the characters, and a seriously awesome track entitled Demon of Darkness before letting you choose your main character’s name and letting you go. As a staple feature of the SMT games, you are a silent protagonist, but this is a rare instance in which that didn’t bother me. It starts with a simple meeting of friends to hang out for an afternoon, but when your cousin provides you with COMPs (little devices that look like a DS in game, but which have been hacked with a whole new program), things begin to change very, very fast.

For one thing, you get an e-mail predicting some deaths later in the day. For another, it comes true.

Next thing you know, the whole area inside the Yamanote line of Tokyo has been locked down, and your COMP shows the line “Let’s Survive” before you are attacked by demons. However, you are able to fight and subdue them, and then…then things get truly interesting.

The wonderful thing about Devil Survivor’s plot is the sheer amount of choices – and the very real consequences – that arise. You can choose to try to break out of the mysterious governmental lockdown, or to find out what’s happening and how to stop it. Depending on the choices you make and the people you talk to, daily events – predicted by the Laplace Mail – can change, people can be killed or saved and even join you, and your ultimate goal can vary considerably – from simply escaping the lockdown to banishing the demons to becoming the Demon King yourself.

The gameplay is another area where Devil Survivor shines…once you get used to it. I must admit – this was my first introduction to the SMT franchise, and with no idea what I was doing, I became frustrated and stopped playing for a while. That said, once I came back I pounded my way through the rest of it.

The battles are done in SRPG style – your people, consisting of up to 4 teams of a human and two accompanying demons, each alternate turns with the groups of enemies, based on speed. Familiar factors like turns coming around faster if you don’t move or attack are present, though different types of demons have different racial skills that can affect movement and turn order (and Devil Survivor uses races rather than the Arcana types Persona fans may be familiar with). Once you attack an enemy, though, the interface shifts to a battle screen, where each character present can choose an action. Combat consists of each unit going once, and then a round of Extra Turns, which can be obtained by nullifying an enemy attack, striking a critical blow or a weakness, or simply being fast enough (again, racial skills can make a big difference here – there’s more to consider to each demon than just stats). There are technically seven elements, though the seventh – Alimghty – cannot be resisted or countered in any way, making it quite rare and valuable. Each of the others, though – Physical, Fire, Ice, Wind, Lightning and Mystic – can have different affinities for each unit. The affinities are Weak (extra damage and Extra Turns granted), Neutral, Strong (resists), Null (blocks all damage of this type), Drain (absorbs it), and Repel (which reflects it back on the user). Since various demons have all sorts of different resistances, it behooves you to keep your attacks varied. There are two ways to do this: for your demons, through Fusion and bonus skills, and for your human characters, through Skill Cracks.

I’ll cover demons first. There are two ways of acquiring new demons to help you fight: the Devil Auction, and Fusion. At the Auction, you can exchange the Macca (this game’s currency) you earn from fighting for new demons of varying strengths, with higher ranks unlocked as you keep going. These demons come with set skills and stats at their base level, and you can have as many as you want. You can also fuse demons in the Cathedral of Shadows to create newer, more powerful entities. The fusions follow specific recipes (i.e. Race A + Race B = Race C at a particular level), but allow you to pass down any skills the previous demons already knew. Thus, you can have a Jack Frost, the ice-type Atlus mascot, that has fire element attacks and even resistance to fire instead of weakness. There are quite a few demons that can only be obtained through fusion, and many unique results that you can only have one of. Certain races as well are only available through fusion, such as the amazingly useful and powerful Tyrants. It also behooves you to keep upgrading your demons, as they do not scale with levels – within a few levels, the amount of experience to level up hits a sharp geometric curve, and rarely is it worth holding on to any one demon for more than six levels or so. Thankfully, new and more powerful demons are always becoming available – you can fuse any demon as high a level as your main character. Demons may also be taught the occasional bonus skill – after a certain number of battles (which is smaller if you perform well) you are given the ability to teach one of your character’s demons any action skill you have Cracked.

The Skill Crack system is the game’s way of powering up your human characters. At the beginning of each battle, your characters are given the option of “cracking” any skill you don’t already have. Each of your parties can select a different skill. In order to crack it, that character’s party must defeat the enemy with the skill they targeted. Once cracked, skills can be assigned to any character who meets the prerequisite, and can be taught to any demon without prerequisites when assigning a bonus skill. The one major drawback is that each skill can only be assigned to one character, so you need to properly allocate your skills to each character’s strengths in order to do well.

There are, of course, the flaws. For one thing, as anyone who knows the SMT series will tell you: this game is hard, and you will need to grind. As SMT games go it’s actually one of the easier ones, and with a free battle or two to every plot battle you shouldn’t encounter much trouble, you can’t just blitz through the storyline. There are a couple battles that are nothing short of infuriating; these usually involve protecting one or more people from demons, and that usually means if a SINGLE ENEMY gets past you, you’re dead. In addition, while you can mix and match skills as you please, there aren’t enough skills to go around to really justify anything besides a three-magic, one-physical party, and a magic-oriented main character with Almighty skills can shred though just about anything with little trouble. Still, though, with a little extra grinding even the frustrating parts can be smoothed over, though major bosses can be a headache.

While the gameplay and story are solid, the graphics are nothing but adequate. The character designs are simple anime portraits with different expressions and individual battle sprites. Combat animations are simple as well, with each element and demon having a unique look but nothing really standing out.

The sound…well, in my opinion, the soundtrack of about 30 tracks has about half a dozen really good pieces. The problem is twofold: a) just about everything else is fairly bland and/or grates after a while, and b) the good music almost exclusively plays at the very end of the game or during major boss fights, so the rest of the game the soundtrack is a bit subpar. That said, those tracks are really, really good, so I give it better rating in retrospect, and the sound effects (no voice acting in this one) are again quite adequate.

Character development I tie in with the plot, as one tends to be centric to the other, and both I found to be excellent. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a couple people I want to punch in the face, but it does mean that I want to punch them for being well-done jerks.

Overall: While a bit tough to get into, especially to those unfamiliar with the Shin Megami Tensei series, Devil Survivor proves to be a well-balanced and well-made SRPG that is worth playing through.

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So zetta slow!


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